What is a hybrid cloud strategy and do you need one?

Why combining public and private cloud resources can improve data security, availability and performance while optimising costs

BlogUPDATED ON February 1, 2022


Cover image for blog post on hybrid cloud strategy

Around 70% of large enterprises have adopted a hybrid cloud strategy and a growing number of SMEs also make use of a cloud infrastructure that combines the use of public and private clouds. Data security and sovereignty regulations and priorities are the number one motivation behind investment in a hybrid cloud infrastructure but there are others.

In this blog, we’ll concisely explain what a hybrid cloud strategy is, use cases, the factors that most often determine if an organisation needs one, and the technical and organisational considerations that need to be addressed for it to be a success.

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What is a hybrid cloud and why do organisations adopt a hybrid cloud strategy?

A hybrid cloud is a multi-cloud infrastructure that includes at least one public and one private cloud. The private cloud can be either physically on-premise, a proprietary virtual cloud, or a third party-hosted private cloud facility. Computing workloads are split between the public and private clouds on an app or organisational level. Private clouds usually handle workloads that involve sensitive data requiring heightened security but can also be leveraged for other use cases including minimising latency.

A hybrid cloud strategy, then, is the defined organisational goal to develop a robust hybrid cloud architecture and migrate appropriate workloads onto it.

Hybrid cloud strategies are a major trend in cloud adoption. Of the 90% of enterprise-level organisations that already had a multi-cloud strategy in 2020, 69% took a hybrid cloud approach. That’s more than two-thirds of enterprises combining public and private clouds. But why is it important to them? What informed their decision-making process? And would your organisation also benefit from a hybrid cloud strategy?

Find out why and for whom the distinction between an all-public multi-cloud strategy and a public-private hybrid strategy is important and hybrid architecture use cases. If you are still evaluating your own needs, you will gain some insight into whether or not a hybrid cloud should or shouldn’t be part of your organisation’s strategy.

Enterprise’s Evolution Towards Multi and Hybrid Cloud Strategies

Infographic presenting data on multi and hybrid cloud usage in 2022

Cloud strategies have been mainstream for some time now, even if application migration lags infrastructure development.  Gartner says over 1.3 trillion US dollars in IT investments will be directed toward cloud migration in 2022. That’s a lot of capital being allocated so there must be a good reason. For companies, cloud migration makes both functional and financial sense. The advantages, for many, are well covered – scalability, agility, performance, and the total cost of ownership (TCO) for enterprise software.

Cloud architecture can also contribute to:

  1. A reduction in maintenance and operational budgets (archives, etc.).
  2. Supporting/extending IT infrastructure for non-core business features.
  3. Leveraging ‘out-of-the-box’ features and services offered by the major public cloud providers.
  4. No need to hoard and maintain rarely needed physical server capacity.

Cloud Management

Multi and hybrid cloud environments do, however, need to be well managed. At K&C we most often use Kubernetes, Docker and Istio to manage applications across clouds (private, AWS, Google, Microsoft).

Introduction to hybrid cloud architecture

A hybrid cloud architecture combines private and public clouds from third-party providers – AWS, Azure etc.  The reason why organisations adopt a  hybrid cloud strategy is usually quite simple. They want to leverage the advantages of migrating to a cloud architecture but have certain workloads and data that require a higher level of security or proximity.

A hybrid cloud has three principal components:

  • A public cloud, such as the Google Cloud Platform or AWS.
  • A private platform either on-premise or by a vendor.
  • WAN (Wide Area Network) to provide a connection between platforms.

An alternative hybrid cloud architecture that doesn’t fit the NIST hybrid cloud definition, but we would apply the term to because of the overlapping considerations, is a private, on-premise, virtualised environment connected to a public cloud.

A hybrid cloud architecture connects the public and private clouds in a way that allows for different workloads of one app to be split and, usually, transferable between. Specific workloads and data that are business-critical, eg. intellectual property or user data, and have stricter security requirements, are usually always run on the private cloud. A private cloud might also, depending on app scale and the elasticity of the private cloud resource, be able to step in and take on workloads usually handled by the public cloud in the case of outages or other issues.

There are two common approaches to setting up a hybrid cloud architecture.

The traditional method involves linking a public to a private cloud through a VPN, WAN, LAN or APIs. It’s complicated.

The more contemporary approach to creating a hybrid cloud environment doesn’t require APIs etc. to move workloads around. This architecture works through modern IT operating systems implemented across environments. Everything is managed as a unified platform.

When does IT Outsourcing work?

(And when doesn’t it?)

Hybrid cloud use cases

With very few exceptions, contemporary organisations with digital infrastructure (especially if running proprietary, custom software) need to leverage cloud computing to remain competitive on costs and performance. But not all workloads are ideally compatible with a public cloud infrastructure. As mentioned, security is the most common, but not the only, reason why a public cloud platform may not be a viable or the best solution.

To better understand the use cases that fit hybrid cloud strategies it is helpful to first look at private cloud use cases. So let’s do both!

Private cloud use cases

The advantages of a public cloud include high availability and price-elastic scalability. That’s great for a majority of workloads, but there are use cases that are best suited to a private cloud. Some of the most common are:

Meeting regulatory and governance requirements

For certain kinds of data, particularly personal data, it can be a legal or regulatory requirement that it does not leave a country or region. A perfect example is the GDPR regulations that apply to organisations based in or doing business with the EU. Other data categories can also come with storage and transfer requirements that are dictated by external regulations or internal governance frameworks.

A private cloud is often the only way an organisation can meet these requirements within a cloud strategy.

Protecting user data

Even when the use of a private cloud is not a legal requirement, many organisations take additional security measures to protect user data, especially if it includes financial information or contact details. Storing that data and running workloads that make use of it in a private cloud is one of the core security measures that can improve user data security. You can also store, share, and manage sensitive corporate documentation in secure cloud storage.

Configuration or hardware Requirements

To be profitable, mass-market public cloud platforms need to offer the services and tools that appeal to a mass market. That’s the business model and how large-scale public cloud vendors can offer computing power and storage as a utility. But the flipside to the coin is that this can sometimes mean the specific infrastructure or hardware a given application or workload needs isn’t available on a public cloud. Or is only available on one and an organisation is wary of vendor lock-in.

For example, a specific workload may require a 24GB RAM VM but just two or three CPUs. A public cloud provider may not have an instance type in the optimal middle ground and would have to run the workloads on more powerful instances. If that workload is heavy, running it on a bigger instance type may be less cost-effective than providing your own custom alternative within a private cloud.


If low latency is a priority, a local private cloud could speed up access to an application. Network latency can be an issue if users are located at a significant distance from the closest public cloud provider. Or if especially high-speed access is required for internal users.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Public cloud resources are almost always cost-optimal for elastic and intermittent workloads because you only pay for what you use when you use it. You don’t need to pay to keep your peak capacity requirement available for when it’s needed.

But if you have workloads that are steady in size and are constant, a private cloud could be the more cost-effective solution.

Hybrid cloud use cases

A hybrid cloud strategy allows an organisation to leverage the advantages and neutralise the weaknesses of both public and private cloud environments.

Regulatory and governance requirements

It’s already been mentioned that regulatory or governance requirements and priorities may necessitate the use of a private cloud for certain workloads and storage of sensitive data. But there could be other workloads for an app that needs to at least partly run in a private cloud that would be better run on a public cloud.

A well-designed hybrid cloud architecture will mean different workloads within the same application can be split between private and public clouds.

Untested workloads

When an organisation launches a new application, especially if it’s taking a Lean ‘fail fast and cheaply’ approach, it may not know if, or when, it will be a success. It may be that consistent and stable demand would mean a private cloud is the more cost-effective long-term solution.

But until it has been established that there will be that long-term demand for a new application, it may make sense to use a public cloud environment. As such, a hybrid cloud strategy can be ideal for organisations that regularly release new applications that may or may not have longevity.

High availability and disaster recovery

A private cloud that offers the same kind of high availability and geo-redundancy as a public cloud can be very expensive to set up. A geo-redundant architecture would mean a minimum of twice the cost of a single private cloud and data centres located at a distance to the main data centre. Very few organisations can justify that level of cost but a lack of geo-redundancy could leave them badly exposed.

Hybrid cloud architecture can offer a good solution by balancing the priorities of high availability and disaster recovery. The production environment can be held on a private cloud and recovery environment on a public cloud, hibernating but ready to be spun up if needed. Data and workloads can be replicated between both the private and public clouds with the latter only springing into action in a disaster scenario.

hybrid cloud strategies need high availability and geo-redundancy

Source: Full Host


Cloudbursting refers to a secondary cloud(s) picking up workloads when capacity is reached on the primary, usually private, cloud. If demand spikes and the private cloud can’t handle the workload, it ‘cloudbursts’ over to a public cloud, which handles the additional load. But for a seamless transition, the kind of low-latency network connections between private and public clouds that only a well-designed hybrid architecture offers are necessary.

A hybrid cloud strategy means a private cloud can handle the workload most of the time without needing to maintain capacity for occasional spikes. Major public cloud vendors like AWS and Azure offer services specifically targeting this need and which place private clouds next to public cloud platforms for super low latency at the moments the hybrid solution needs to come into play.

Do you need a hybrid cloud strategy?

These use cases help highlight the utility and value a hybrid cloud strategy can have in the right circumstances. When analysing your own needs, it’s a good idea to start at the final destination of what you need your cloud environment to achieve. And then reverse engineer to arrive at the right strategy.

What do you need? Cost efficiencies, agility, scalability, security, reliability? In what order of priority and to what extent can you, or are ready to, compromise on competing priorities?

If you are unsure about the optimal cloud architecture for your organisation’s needs, or the costs and other resources that would be involved in establishing a hybrid cloud strategy, please do get in touch!

K&C’s cloud development and infrastructure consultants will be happy to run you through different scenarios and approaches available to you, offer their deep experience of their respective and relative pluses and minuses, and help you understand the resource allocation that would be expected to be involved.

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